Downtown Anniston has filled with empty commercial buildings as the area has declined economically over the years. However, the recent and ongoing development of the formerly vacant Watermark Tower in Anniston indicates revitalizing older buildings with new business is possible.
The John Dixon and Associates auctioning firm based in Marietta, Ga., will hold the auction at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the two-story, 31,000-square-foot building, located at 1031 Quintard Ave. The former bank will be one of several commercial buildings in Alabama, Georgia and Florida the firm will auction this week. The bank building closed after Regions’ 2006 merger with AmSouth.
“These buildings are all vacant and will probably sell at prices that make them an excellent investment,” John Dixon, CEO of John Dixon and Associates, said Wednesday in a blog posted on his company’s website.
Attempts to reach a representative of John Dixon and Associates for comment Friday were unsuccessful.
Amidst a collection of vacant buildings, the 10-story Watermark Tower on Noble Street stands tall as an example of successful revitalization, according to James Lloyd, marketing consultant for Noble Street LLC, which leases space in the tower.
“It’s been better than average, considering the other buildings in town,” Lloyd said. “It’s a tall building with class-A office spaces.”
Along with the Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board, which moved into the facility in February, the former AmSouth building houses several attorneys, an architect and a military contractor. Lloyd said the tenants take up about 26,000 square feet, or four floors, of the building. He said the remaining 32,000 feet is still being repaired from fire damage, but has already garnered interest from several groups.
Tenants abandoned the tower in 2003 when a fire on the top floor damaged much of the building.
“We’ve talked with different people close to signing leases,” Lloyd said.
He said an upscale restaurant, a downtown club and multiple condos are all possible for the remaining floors of the building.
“It’s truly mixed use,” Lloyd said of the building.
Betsy Bean, executive director of Spirit of Anniston, a group that strives to stimulate the economic development of downtown Anniston through the preservation of historic buildings, supported the revitalization of Watermark Tower.
“The key part of revitalizing a downtown is to use a historic structure and street pattern as the basis for historic revitalization,” Bean said. “You can’t do a lot of revitalization around a parking lot.”
And to Bean, while the Regions Bank building is not in historic downtown Anniston proper, revitalizing it would be of benefit to the area.
“The City Council needs to look at our gateways coming in from the south and north on Quintard,” Bean said. “Neither are very attractive … we can’t let things continue the way they have been.”
Jim Miller, general manager of the Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board and a member of Spirit of Anniston, said reusing old commercial buildings is good for the city.
“It’s good for buildings to be in use and not for vacant buildings to be around,” Miller said. “It sends a message that we are economically viable. You leave them run down and that sends the opposite message.”
Miller said that is why the Water Works and Sewer Board got involved with the Watermark Tower.
“It’s good for the Water Works because there is more economic activity,” Miller said of buildings being reused. “And it’s good for the people here because it shows we’re economically viable. It all ties together.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.